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B.C.'s overdose crisis claims 176 lives in April

Last Updated Jun 1, 2021 at 7:00 pm PDT

Summary

April 2021 numbers represent a 43 per cent increase over the number of deaths reported in the same month last year

April marked the 14th consecutive month that more than 100 people died of suspected overdoses, coroner says

Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions account for the majority of these deaths in 2021

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – British Columbia’s overdose crisis continues to devastate communities, with the province reporting 176 lives lost to toxic illicit drugs in April.

This is one of the highest monthly totals on record.

The numbers come from the BC Coroners Service’s preliminary reporting. The total number of deaths in B.C. in the first four months of the year is now 680.

The April 2021 numbers represent a 43 per cent increase over the number of deaths reported in the same month last year. The Coroners Service says April marked the 14th consecutive month that more than 100 people died of suspected overdoses.

“Once again, we’re reminded that the scale of this public health emergency is truly unprecedented,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.


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The Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions account for the majority of these deaths in 2021, at 61 per cent. However, the new data shows the crisis is far reaching, with the coroner saying nearly every corner of B.C. has been impacted.

Fentanyl continues to be found in much of the drug supply, with the province noting it was detected in 86 per cent of deaths this year. Carfentanil, which is a more potent analogue of fentanyl, has been found in almost as many samples so far this year as there were in all of 2020.

“These latest numbers emphasize the toxicity of the illicit drug supply in B.C.,” Lapointe said. “We know that substance use disorder is a complex health issue, and those experiencing it need meaningful and compassionate services and supports. Far too often, we hear from families who have lost a loved one that no help was available despite desperate searches over months or years. It is critical that harm reduction services, including safe supply, are accessible where and when people need them, and that recovery services are evidence based and accountable.”

The number of deaths in April accounts for, on average, 5.9 deaths a day, the coroner says. The majority of deaths were confirmed in men so far this year at 79 per cent. So far, 70 per cent of the people who have died from an illicit drug overdose were between the ages of 30 to 59.

No deaths were reported at supervised consumption sites or drug overdose prevention sites, the coroner adds.